Thought for the week: January 17th 2021 – New wine into old wine skins.
I’d like to return to a theme we’ve visited before during this Pandemic time, looking at what we are doing, in preparation for the future, and what the bible can tell us.
In the passage from the New Testament for this week (Matthew 9: 14-17), Jesus talks about not pouring New Wine into Old Wine Skins. For a long time I struggled to make any real sense of it. Now, it goes some way to helping me understand some of the apparent paradoxes and contradiction in the bible. On the one hand Jesus tells us he came to fulfil the law and the prophets, yet at the same time he’s bringing a new message. The first thing to mention, having just come through the Christmas season, is how Jesus was the manifestation of God on earth as prophesised by the likes of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Micah (It’s also worth taking a look at Luke 4 16-19 and comparing it with Isaiah 61:1-2). In His ministry Jesus reinforced and explained words of the prophets – especially those relating to mankind’s relationship with God, His creation and each other. The prophets continually confronted the people when they turned away from God, telling then how they should be behaving and telling them to turn back to God. This is encapsulated in a famous passage – one of my favourites which I often quote, and make no apology for that – It’s the Old Testament passage this week (Micah 6: 6-8), where Micah is taking the Israelites to task. Verse 8 reads: 8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Then if we look at what Jesus said when a lawyer asked Him what the most important commandment was? …. 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” All this ties in with Micah. It’s about doing the right thing and loving God. Yes, Jesus did come to fulfil the law and the prophets. He brought a new energy to God’s message and desire for His people. He went further, He became the final sacrificial lamb prophesied by Isaiah (Isaiah 53:7), paying the price for our wrong doing, bringing forgiveness to all who are truly sorry, Jew, gentile, male, female, black, white….. no barriers. The offer is for all. What’s all that got to do with ‘New Wine in to Old Wine skins’? Some of his closest disciple may have begun to catch on, only Jesus really knew just how seismic the changes would be for the Jewish people in the coming generations, and how it would affect the future of the whole world. Jesus was crucified in around 30 AD (give or take) by the early 70s, only 40 years later, the temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed, in deed Jerusalem itself was all but destroyed, just as Jesus had prophesised. Life would never be the same for the Jewish people, worship would no longer be centred round the Temple in Jerusalem instead it would be local synagogues dispersed around the world. The old ways were disappearing! A new world was emerging with Jesus taking all the best ingredients from the O.T. and seasoning them with God’s grace, forgiveness and redemptive power through Jesus on the cross at Calvary. To try and pour this ‘New Wine’- this ‘New World’ into the Old would result in both being lost. The community that sprang from Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, had to find a new way to live, to worship, to serve God. They had a new message for a new world. They couldn’t remain a sect within the old Judaism.
We are I think it’s fair to say going through a pretty Seismic period right now, and it is affecting the whole world. There are many major events happening around the world, but I think this period of world history might well be measured by the current Pandemic. When we come through it things won’t be the same, there’s likely to be a virus residue meaning continuing vaccinations in the same way we do for measles mumps rubella…. etc. all of them killers in their time, but thankfully hardly ever now. And I suspect human contact won’t be the same for a long, long time. But we will come through. When we reach that moment of feeling life is entering some sort of ‘new normality,’ will we be prepared? Will we take hold of the opportunities for a new and better way of life, with new priorities, kinder, more compassionate, more giving and less taking, more understanding and less confrontation? Will we learn from all that’s going on in the world? Yes it’s been a tough, terrible time, more so for some than others. But we have the opportunity to ‘Make a New Wine’ taking the best ingredients from the past and sprinkling them with new hope, In the way Jesus took the ingredients of God’s law and prophets to make a new covenant with His people and the world; a new wine, new expectations. I don’t think we can put our new expectations into the old way of life, we could end up losing both. We have the opportunity as individuals, communities, nations and as a world, to change for the better. This can be a defining moment for the current generation, so what will our new normality look like?……
To close, as we develop expectations for a new and better way of life – ‘A New Wine to continue the metaphor – let’s pray that we all remember the vital ingredients, the ones God would have us include? To paraphrase Micah 6:8 ‘…and what does the LORD require of us but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.
Heavenly Father As we look ahead to the future, Help us to look forward with new expectation, full of hope;
Hope for ourselves, hope for each other and hope for the world.
Help us do our part to bring. Light, Justice, Kindness and Compassion to the world around us.
As you have shown through Your Son, Our Saviour, Jesus Christ.